|Universe Price Tiers
Title text: In Universe Pro®™ the laws of physics remain unchanged under time reversal, to maintain backward compatibility.
Philosophers have posed many questions in trying to understand the nature of the universe. Some of these have become well-known in popular culture; while some are deliberately open-ended, several others are presented as a choice between two or more options and are assumed to have a single answer, the debate being about which is correct. In this comic, Randall proposes that the answers to these questions are instead not fixed, but vary according to a tiered subscription business model, as seen in many business pricing schemes, particularly in software. In this model, the no-cost tier gets you a universe experience of a lower quality, while at higher tiers better options are available for a cost - for example in the highest tier the processes of aging and death are "Opt-in" rather than "Mandatory". It is not clear from the comic who is supposed to be paying these subscription fees, or to whom they are paid (presumably the developers or maintainers of the universe, or the hypothesized simulation thereof), or whose experience of the universe is supposed to be affected.
The universe does not have a subscription model, but some of the categories on the chart that refer to observable properties (such as the speed limit or existence of the Uncertainty Principle) indicate that ours is the Universe Standard® subscription. Other specified settings may not entirely match our user experience. Possibly a high-tier installation has the option to restrict itself to selected lower-tier behaviors if it is considered more useful.
The title text refers to the concept of T-symmetry in physical laws. Most properties of our universe are asymmetric, meaning that the property changes if time is reversed (e.g. the entropy of the universe decreases as time flows backward). Randall again makes a reference to software subscription models in a play on words as the Universe Pro®™ sub appears to have laws that maintain "backward compatibility".
Given that Universe Standard is most in line with the non-facetious observations, and assuming the price tag has not changed since day one, whoever is paying for this subscription has paid 2.470 × 1012 dollars, given that current estimates place the age of the universe at 13.77 billion years old..
| Universe Lite™
| Universe Standard®
| Universe Pro®™
| Indicative of a typical Freemium product, the versions released include what is effectively an 'unlimited trial' version, but lacking some potentially desired features, and then extra tiers with increased functionality so that you can "get what you pay for".
| Again typical of a tiered subscription, where ad revenue supports the lower tiers. There are indeed ads in our own universe, but whether they are an intrinsic property of the universe or not is an open question.
| Number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin
| "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" is a question used to poke fun at medieval angelology and medieval scholasticism in general by claiming discussions in its fields revolve around meaningless questions. It is also used as a metaphor for wasting time debating useless questions, as it is generally accepted that we can have no definitive answer. Here, the question is given concrete answers that are powers of 2 often seen when using binary representation. It may also be a reference to 485: Depth.
| Free will or determinism
| Free will
| Free will
| Determinism is the belief that all events and actions are predetermined by the conditions that they arise from, including the part played by our own interactions. This does not imply that such predetermined results are at all predictable, due to the potentially chaotic way they may play out, but it implies that personal intentions do not arbitrarily change the future, and merely form a part of the path of inevitability through the chain of causes and effects.
Such a worldview is countered by the concept of Free will, where some element of consciousness (and thus probably an indeterministic element of the universe within which the conscious minds exist) is not absolutely bound by any such rules as set out by the most precise level of physics and/or any gods who were involved.
It is interesting that the paid-for versions of the universe are the only ones to include free will, implying that either such quality is an inherently desirable feature or that it is a necessary requirement of some other feature in the paid plan (such as, for instance, the dice-playing mentioned below). As the term "free will" can mean a variety of things, this is partly why it exists as the subject of many debates; here, it may mean "randomness", which the current understanding of quantum physics suggests does exist in this universe.
| Cosmic speed limit
| 65 mph
| 300,000 km/s
| The Cosmic speed limit refers to the speed of light, which rounds to 300,000 kilometers per second in our particular universe, one of the few definite clues as to which tier we might exist in. Of course, the basic joke is conflating that with a vehicular speed limit, typically 65 mph (105 km/h) on U.S. highways. Living in a universe with a 65 mph speed limit would render many aspects of experience unrecognizable from our own; assuming the speed of light and thus all relativistic effects were similarly scaled, the act of driving at highway speeds would result in human-observable time dilation and apparent spatial distortion. The special relativity consequences of a low speed of light are explored in one chapter of George Gamow's Mr Tompkins; in Mr Tompkins' dream, the speed of light is approximately 10 mph. The idea of having a speed cap is reminiscent of computer simulations and game engines, which often prevent agents from accelerating beyond a certain point to prevent unintended behavior. It could also reference caps placed on data transfer rates by internet service providers, which are lower on lower-priced service tiers.
| If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear...
| No sound
| Simple beep
| Full sound
| If a tree falls in a forest is a popular philosophical question whose answer depends largely on one's philosophical belief system and the interpretation of the question itself. Here it's suggested that there is a definite answer which differs depending on the quality of the universe subscription. On the assumption that "our" universe is on the Standard Plan, this table implies that all trees falling outside of the auditory range of anyone or anything capable of noticing it emit a simplified "beep" sound, rather than the complex crashing one would expect. This concept is similar to the discussion in 2664: Cloud Swirls.
| Meaning of Life
| Clearly explained
| All we can know is that we (currently) don't know, which makes our universe one almost certainly either with an unknowable or uncertain state of affairs. The closest thing to a meaning of life in this universe that provably exists seems to be natural selection, ie the meaning of life is to spread our genetics, although this is an exceptionally unsatisfying answer. [actual citation needed]
| Sound of one hand clapping
| A Koan from Buddhism. Koans deliberately have no answer — one hand cannot clap, as the sound of two hands clapping relies upon there being two hands percussing and displacing/resonating air. The "Kazzap" referenced is humorous because it provides an answer to something with no answer, in the form of a nonsense onomatopoeia. To members of our universe, this is absurd. The implication is that those in the Pro version of the universe have access to this seemingly impossible feat.
| Aging and death
| Whether or not an infinite lifespan would be a desirable thing is a recurring question in philosophy, as well as art and literature. While an instinctive response might be that extending life is always a good thing, particularly if the deprivations of aging can be avoided, thought experiments and literary explorations tend to suggest that it is the very finiteness of life that brings meaning to it. The suggestion is that in an infinite life, you will eventually repeatedly experience all that there is to experience, and seeking out new experiences will lose its purpose, leading to a life of interminable boredom. If this is a mere option, we clearly haven't read (or understood) the online manual or perhaps read the tool tips.
| Does god play dice with the universe?
| Yes, and he cheats
| A reference to a phrase famously ascribed to Einstein (in opposition to the concept of quantum uncertainty) that "God does not play dice with the universe." This option and the Determinism/Free Will choice, above, are interestingly linked but not necessarily in a way we can comprehend.
| Bad things...
| Happen to good people only
| Happen to good and bad people
| Don't happen
| Relates to whether there is justice, compassion or fairness in the universe, where good and bad events often seem uncorrelated with whether people morally deserve them. In theological arguments, this debate is intimately connected with theodicy (the problem of how a benevolent god could create a world that contains evil), but like the existence of free will it is hotly debated in non-theological contexts as well. Randall suggests that the situation in a lower-tier universe is even worse, and interestingly that there is no tier where bad things only happen to bad people. This is probably due to the fact that bad things in this universe cannot be done by bad people, which means that there are no bad people who do bad things that bad things can be done to (simple!).
| What happens to those who sow the wind
| Reap the whirlwind
| Reap the whirlwind
| Lots of crops everywhere
| This is a reference to the famous phrase "sow the wind, reap the whirlwind", taken from biblical verse Hosea 8:7. The phrase means that those who do evil without thought to the consequences will receive punishment. However, in Universe Pro®™, nothing bad happens to anyone, which excludes the possibility of the "whirlwind". This implies that it is possible to literally sow wind (in the farming sense) in the Pro version, which apparently translates to growing crops in a vastly wider range than normal.
[A table with three columns, labeled "Universe Lite™", "Universe Standard®", and "Universe Pro®™". Each row is labeled with a property of the universe.]
Universe Lite™, Universe Standard®, Universe Pro®™
Price: Free, $14.95/month, $49.95/month
Ads: Yes, Yes, No
Number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin: 4,
Free will or determinism: Determinism, Free will, Free
Cosmic speed limit: 65 mph, 300,000 km/s, Unlimited
If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to
hear...: No sound, Simple beep, Full sound
Meaning of Life: Unknowable, Uncertain, Clearly
Sound of one hand clapping: [None], [None], Kazzap!
Aging and death: Mandatory, Mandatory, Opt-in
Does god play dice with the universe?: Yes, and he
cheats, Yes, No
Bad things...: Happen to good people only, Happen to
good and bad people, Don't happen
What happens to those who sow the wind: Reap the
whirlwind, Reap the whirlwind, Lots of crops everywhere
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We seem to be in Universe Standard, based on the cosmic speed limit
Victor (talk) 22:03, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
Is the price per user (human)? Or payed by the "god" who runs the universe?
The interpretation would change quite a bit. If per user, some could travel fast while others would not see ads and could even be immortal.
If per universe, would the concept of ads disappear?
Victor (talk) 22:25, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
- The tree sound can't be a particular human's experience, and the speed limit seems intended to be per universe.
General comment, I think each line of the table should have a separate one-line or one-paragraph explanation, rather than squishing it into one column of a table which mostly reproduces the comic text. i.e. we don't need the table in the explanation, although it works fine in the transcript imo. 220.127.116.11 23:40, 31 August 2022 (UTC)edit: a word
"Yes, and he cheats" may be a reference to a quote from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
- I fully expected something like "Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don't find out 'til too late that he's been playing with two queens all along." (from Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett) RAGBRAIvet (talk) 01:47, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- The SMAC quote is "Einstein would turn over in his grave. Not only does God play dice, the dice are loaded. - Chairman Sheng-ji Yang", from the Probability Mechanics tech. Also, the "God does not play dice" quote is stated during the Supercollider secret project movie. I doubt the comic is referencing any particular media here, though. 18.104.22.168 02:40, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- Meanwhile, Stephen Hawking said "Not only does God play dice, but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen." -- Hkmaly (talk) 16:01, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
Under Number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, '64' is 2⁵ and may be making reference to the Nintendo 64 game system. RAGBRAIvet (talk) 01:54, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- And just for the record, 4096 is 2¹². RAGBRAIvet (talk)
- 64 = 26 != 25 = 32. 22.214.171.124 19:43, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- Note that the philosophical question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin turns to have much more useful meaning if we realize that the question wasn't if 64 or 4096, but if it's a finite or infinite number, that is, if angels are subject to Pauli's exclusion principle. -- Hkmaly (talk) 15:59, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- I think the answer is to be found elsewhere. And it is a different power of 2! 126.96.36.199 17:26, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- Damn, now I want to see that scene again to see what the hell the gavotte is, LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 15:50, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
- Here is an extended version (with uploader's additional soundtrack?), but it seems like the most demonstrative publically available clip at first glance. 188.8.131.52 18:38, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
- No. You can't use the 64 to try to inject a reference, 64 is too important and common a number, Nintendo and Randall simply got the number from the same place, being 2^6 (it's 6, not 5, 5 is 32. One to six is 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64). You need SOMETHING else to wonder if there's a question/reference. Like if the N64 had some game where angels dance on the head of a pin (or at least dancing angels). In which case it'd be a reference to that game. In the same way you could claim it's a reference to 64-bit versions of Windows, or about how iOS switched to requiring 64-bit apps and dropped support for 32-bit apps a couple of years ago, both of which are more recent and thus could be considered more likely. NiceGuy1 (talk) 15:41, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
- Not only are the numbers all powers of 2, they're all perfect squares as well. This might imply 2x2, 8x8, and 32x32 "resolution" on the universe, as in "how many pixels can dance on the head of a pin?" --Account (talk) 19:19, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
Who is paying our subscription? How do we ensure we don't get demoted to lite?
Here, the sound of one hand clapping is pretty much "toop." Put your hand out flat fingers together, and no thumb involved, quickly make a fist. Toop. Edit I'm not making a fist. Im keeping the last joints straight and smacking my hand184.108.40.206 15:59, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- But two hands each doing that (or slapping another bit of body) aren't "two hands clapping", but more like two hands clasping/something-or-other-like-that.
- If you could bring your one hand to a sudden stop in mid-air as if hitting another hand, it might be closer, but there's no sudden stop possible like a contact-stop. Plus a full-fledged clap for maximum ovational volume involves cupped hands trapping a resonant volume of air between them, almost sealed (wet hands so positioned can be used to force a squeaky-fart sound out from between them), and neither an "air clap" or the toop-clasp can do anything so dramatic with a solo hand. 220.127.116.11 17:54, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- the sound can be more clap like if you bend your hand upwards and keep it like that. Then loosen your fingers, and smash your upward lower arm to the front and back. My one armed brother taught me. It's handy (hehe) if one hand is holding a drink. 18.104.22.168 07:36, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
I have a problem with the "Bad things..." portion. If I was a bad person, then I would never pay for the universe, as I would be better off in the free version, where nothing bad would ever happen to me. SDSpivey (talk) 19:17, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
The "bad things" section is a bit bothersome: good things don't exist without bad things. Without bad things, good things are just...things. So maybe awareness of bad things is still extant in UniPro? That way, good things would still be at the upper end of a theoretical scale.
But the subjectivity of badness is concerning in a bad-things-don't-happen realm. I reckon plenty of people who could spring for fifty bucks a month would list rum, Katharine Hepburn movies, gay people and Jews as bad things that therefore won't happen. If I stump up my Pro subscription, do I have to share the universe with these douchebags, or do we each get our own? And if it's the latter, how much of a douche must you be to be excluded from my universe? Can we differ a little and still coexist, or do we have to gel perfectly? And how would that ever happen...and would it be tolerable to live surrounded by my opinion-clones? Is this...is this the too-perfect Matrix v.1.0? Am I buying a ticket to a simulated utopia while my body atrophies?
You monster! Guards! Guards! Let me out.....
22.214.171.124 23:09, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
Note that Universe Lite is marked as trademark, Universe Standard as a registered trademark, and Universe Pro as...BOTH. This is a joke; more is better, esp. in lists of features. But there's no point in claiming a mark is both a trademark and a registered trademark.
How to clap with one hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwoq3QBaQAY Barmar (talk) 04:38, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, then there is NO SOUND. The act of the tree falling will create vibrations in the air, but those vibrations only become 'sound' when they impact on a tympanic membrane (such as an eardrum) that is connected to a brain. Sound happens in your head, folks. Of course, in practice, the likelihood of a tree falling in an area that contains NO tympanic membranes at all is impossible given the abundance of miniature scaled life on Earth. That said, we have no idea whether insects actually perceive those air vibrations as 'sound' in the same way that humans do - the fairy fly, for example, is so small that it can 'swim' through air rather than flying, so probably perceives sound waves the same way that humans experience ocean waves.
MarquisOfCarrabass (talk) 05:50, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- <-----Pish-Posh. Sound happens regardless of aby tympanic membranes. Sound: noun 1. vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person's or animal's ear. The definition is CAN be heard, not ARE heard. Sound vibrations cause MANY things to happen besides vibrating tympanic membranes, and it's STILL SOUND.126.96.36.199 11:47, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- These two viewpoints are exactly why this is a point of philosophical discussion instead of a solved problem. Noëlle (talk) 20:36, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- Yes, it comes down to how one defines "sound". Is it a set of air vibrations with a certain set of characteristics, or is it someone's perception of such a set of vibrations? The question about the tree falling is indeterminate as stated because of the lack of that definition. BunsenH (talk) 21:40, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
We should do a comparison of universe standard vs our universe see if that's what we're doing Mushrooms (talk) 08:13, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- ...hang on, I already downloaded a crack to repatch the executables to get around the pesky copy protection/licence-key manager. The patcher utility says it might take some time, and I've had to give it superuser access to the entire system for some reason, so it might be a good idea to save your current session and let it do its job before messing about in the menus or we might find unexpected results! 188.8.131.52 11:01, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- I looked in the leaked payment notes, and found that biblicalGod31, the current payer, refused to pay 2 geomagnetic reversals ago, so our subscription got demoted to standard. Looking in the End God License Agreement, it seems that next geomagnetic reversal we will be demoted to lite. (Sorry if I didn't do humor well). 184.108.40.206 13:38, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- I definitely want to see this movie/read this book now. Our heroes discover that the universe is in fact a simulation. Not a malevolent one like The Matrix, but a for-fun one like implied by this comic. The heroes come to realize that the entity playing the simulation is about to screw it up somehow (possibly by not paying the subscription fee), and they have to figure out how to break out of the simulation and convince the apathetic entity to care about the inhabitants of the universe and save it from annihilation or demotion to the free tier. 220.127.116.11 15:01, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
- Meanwhile, the apathetic entity realizes that his universe is a simulation, so he has to figure out how to break out ... Hey, how many levels up does this go? 18.104.22.168 06:18, 6 September 2022 (UTC)
Except for the Cosmic Speed Limit - which I didn't know what speed this meant until the explanation - I found it quite clear THIS is UniverseLite! We ARE using it free. Bad things DO only seem to happen to good people. God DOES seem to play dice and cheat. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:54, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
I seem to remember a recent Jeopardy episode referenced a question similar to "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" (I think "What are angels?" was the correct answer but no one got it.) Could there be a connection between that and the mention of that question in this comic? Brian-K-1016 (talk) 05:53, 4 September 2022 (UTC)
In the Universe Pro Edition, Freewill comes with a signed 8x10 photo of your choice of Geddy, Alex, or Neil.
To extend an idea mentioned above by "Ragbrat",stating the number of angels that can occupy a volume implies they are fermionic. The fact that there are 6 types (choirs, ranks, species, whatever ...) of them hints at a possible symmetry similar to that found in quarks and leptons and raises the question whether angels might be elementary. That seems unlikely, though, since reports of observation of their interactions indicate a complexity difficult to imagine in an elementary particle. Odds are they are composite particles. There have been enough reports concerning angels to be confident that they are macroscopic. That, in turn, implies that their binding energy does not owe to strong, electromagnetic, weak, or gravitational interactions; they are bound tightly enough to retain an identity even in a fairly strong gravitational field - or to their being from another universe in which values of h and other fundamental constants are different from those in our own universe. Of course, they could also be composite, de-facto fermionic quasiparticles, in which what appears to be a particle is a process in equilibrium. People are quasiparticles of this kind, since it takes 1E-10 sec or so for an oxygen molecule to form a chemical bond to atoms which are clearly part of the body and a typical human body needs more than 2E10 oxygen atoms/sec in order to work. People are also effectively fermionic, although what actually holds their shape is an indirect expression of electrons' fermionic nature and electrical charge - electrons are in discrete states, which means how they repel other electrons depends on what state they're in. So maybe angels are some kind of people from another dimension or something. -- Adeblanc (talk) 22:28, 3 February 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)